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Content marketers, storytellers and even executives can fall in love with the facts to a story they are sharing with a wider audience. “If we love them, our audiences will too,” might be the attitude. That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes cutting facts is a necessity. Our audiences will thank us.
Not all facts of a story are created equal and some don’t add much to the flow of a story or for a specific audience. But cutting facts and details can be hard.
First of, we might be so close to the story that it’s hard to see that Fact A is not nearly as important as Fact B and doesn’t really add much to the story anyways. Leaving it in, however, can turn away an audience that is getting bored by unnecessary content dribble.
These facts and nuggets of content can come as pieces of written pieces, audio recordings and even video.
The amount of work it takes to cut facts on these different mediums varies, but it can be done on all. For example, cutting content in a written piece is technically speaking easier than cutting it in video. With text on the screen, in a word processing system, text can be cut in seconds. Which text to cut, however, can be a longer decision-making process.
Cutting facts on audio and video is also possible, but takes a bit more work. Audio files, at the least, take longer to save than a text document. And depending on what’s being cut, the editor might have to work around words bleeding over each other. Depending on the speaker’s pace, it can be hard to cut content.
Video editors can face the same barrier and more. A lot of times b-roll needs to be used when what a speaker says is cut apart. That way, the speaker’s video doesn’t show how sentences are being cut apart. That could create a bad user experience for the viewer.
Saving, rendering and exporting takes additional time.
It’s OK and good to keep content concise and clear and spend the time to make sure stories share what needs to be shared and engage the audience. But it’s also good to keep in mind that this process can take time and add time to a project.
Knowing when to cut content
When unnecessary content is shared this can be obvious to the consuming audience.
(Yawn) “Why is this being shared?” is not the reaction we are looking for. Keep in mind that many people are short on time, but make time for content that engages them, they care about and that solves a problem for them.
Let me use the example of a football game to highlight unnecessary content.
Team A is playing Team B. Players get to the stadium three hours before the game, put on their uniforms, shoes, gloves and pads. They warm up for several minutes and have a last minute check of plays that have been practiced the previous week.
Team A returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and ended up winning 7-0. Team B struggled the rest of the way and never made it past midfield.
For a game story that is supposed to share the highlights of the game, the first paragraph is just a roadblock.
Please tell me the facts of the game and the outcome now.
Obviously, many more details could be added from the actual game for the actual game story, but you get the idea. If it doesn’t move the story forward and help the consumer be enlightened, educated or at least entertained: Cut, cut, cut.
Cutting facts made simple(r)
Several steps have worked for me over the years as a traditional and brand journalist as well as content marketer.
Really weigh each fact that’s being included. Why do I need this? Am I sharing it in the most meaningful and most understandable way?
Ask somebody else to review your story. Ask them for feedback. Were they engaged during the whole piece? If not, ask them when they were “bored.”
Let your story sit for a few days and then come back with fresh eyes to see what you might be able to cut.
Instead of cutting facts and pieces of the story, cut words. Take a look at each word. Cut the words that are unnecessary.
Example within context:
This will also help content be clearer and more concise.
This helps content be clear and concise.
Cutting facts is OK
The end goal of the stories we share isn’t about us – the storytellers – expressing ourselves or even writing for ourselves. It’s about the audience and most audience members today have little time. Keeping stories as concise (that doesn’t mean stories have to be short necessarily) as possible helps them connect to us.
Cut facts and pieces of content that don’t add much. Keep the ones that share the stories in the most meaningful way.
Interestingly, this post has over 800 words, which is one of my longer posts. What do you think? Did I share anything that was too much for this?
Tweet me at @ctrappe.